February 23, 2019

Learning is not a one-way street



I frequently hear colleagues and friends complain about all the money they’ve spent on coaching or training with disappointing results.

Literally never have I heard someone complain about all the work and effort they put into coaching or training, with disappointing results.

I’m going to flip our usual conversation on its head and instead of talking about your job as the one providing service, I’m going to talk about your job as the one receiving service. 

Whether you’re the training attendee or the coachee, you have responsibilities. 

Have you ever had those audience members who seem like they would rather be elsewhere? The audience members who don’t participate, who look annoyed, who spend all their time looking at their phone? Or worse, the audience member who’s constantly interrupting or trying to impress everyone with how much smarter they are than you?

Have you ever BEEN this audience member?

If we want “good” audiences (ask great questions, participate in exercises, express interest, stay awake), perhaps we should start with modeling good behavior ourselves as audience members. I often remind my audiences and my coaching clients that they get out of the relationship what they put into it. 

As speakers, we can’t expect to just pour knowledge into an audience of empty vessels. That’s not how it works. And as audience members, we can’t expect to sit back and have knowledge poured into us. 

Have you had a coaching client who wasn’t open to trying new things, who was unwilling to take risks and get outside of their comfort zone? Have you had a client unwilling to question their own current beliefs and practices, or unwilling to do work outside of the coaching sessions? 

I occasionally have a coaching client who expects me to hand him all the tools he needs on a silver platter. Instead of doing the work and pushing himself into new territory, he makes excuses about why he “can’t” do this thing or that thing. Or s/he comes to me with a last-minute event to prepare for and expects miracles.

Have you ever BEEN this coaching client?

Of course, coaching is a delicate process. It’s not easy to be comfortable with discomfort. I acknowledge those who come forward for coaching to improve their speaking skills and confidence, because it’s not an easy road.

But a coaching client or an audience member cannot just sit back and be a passive observer of the process.

The audience member or client cannot just “take” from the process and not “give.” This is a sure path to disappointment.

As an audience member, as a coaching client, you have a job to do as well! Spending the time, effort and energy (not just the money) to do your part contributes to a successful outcome for both the participant and the teacher.

It’s actually pretty easy to type your credit card number into an online order form or click that payment button in PayPal. That’s not the real work. And no one is going to unscrew your head and dump in a bunch of knowledge.

Pay attention to how you approach learning opportunities. Be honest with yourself.

It’s possible that these opportunities haven’t worked for you in the past because you were not fully committed or open to taking responsibility for the goals, focus, tasks, reflection, timelines, preparation, emotional exploration, and growth mindset necessary for a successful coaching or training process.


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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

December 29, 2018

Are you confident or complacent?



We all strive to be confident speakers; it's a standard by which we judge our own levels of experience and practice.

However, it's possible to be too confident, to become complacent over time about our own skills and abilities.

I made this short video to encourage you to look at where you might be resting on your laurels just a bit too much, to look at where it might benefit you to get out of your comfort zone and look honestly at where you could improve.

A new year is upon us, and many of us use these time markers as starting points to refresh our skills and habits. Is 2019 the year when you'll decide to take your speaking to the next level?

https://youtu.be/zFcOeh1zbRE

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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

December 2, 2018

Four reasons to stop using PowerPoint



Many of my speaker colleagues reject the use of slides. They say slides are boring, prevent engagement, and distract the audience away from the speaker's message. And yep, they do. Especially when they look like this:


or this:


are loaded with cliches like this: 


or packed with bullets like this:


or when the presenter looks like this:


or when your images look like this:



So here are four reasons to stop using slides:

1. If you're still living in the 90s, using crap clip art and cartoons, please don't inflict your slides on audiences.

2. If you insist on listing everything you know about your topic in the form of bullet points or complex charts and graphs, please don't inflict your slides on audiences.

3. If you face the screen the whole time, reading from your slides so that you don't have to learn your content or interact, please don't inflict your slides on audiences.

4. If you're unwilling to learn and use best practices for visuals, like cutting down on text and complex graphs, using more images, and letting slides be the background and enhancement to your presentation, please don't inflict your slides on audiences.

For the rest of you who are challenging the old ways of "death by PowerPoint," carry on

Personally, I love PowerPoint. I have lots of fun creating slides that will illustrate my points and entertain my audiences. Slides can be part of an engaging, fun and creative presentation. PowerPoint doesn't force anyone to use bullets or to be boring.

And one final slide for you:


P.S. If you'd like a quick lesson in PowerPoint best practices, check out my virtual training here!


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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

October 16, 2018

Your voice matters




You're probably hearing a lot right now about using your voice. With elections coming up, it's important to be reminded that our voices—via our votes—really do make a difference. I know... sometimes it doesn't feel that way. Sometimes we feel small, we feel powerless, and we feel disheartened.

But those aren't good enough reasons not to vote!

Now, how about your actual voice? What are you dying to express? What do you have to say that will make a difference in the world if only enough people hear you?

Do you have a cause that you fiercely believe in, that you're passionate about, that needs more visibility and attention?

Does your business do transformational work and you're looking for the right words to express what you do?

Are you tired of playing it safe, holding yourself back, retreating from the limelight, instead of advancing the conversation about your cause and forging ahead?

I have so many speaking and coaching colleagues who long to be real, to share their passions and to speak up about their core beliefs and convictions.

But they're afraid. They're afraid that being real and speaking out about injustice, oppression and discrimination (for example) will hurt their businesses. They fear alienating potential clients and customers. They don't want to hurt their friends and families' feelings with their opinions.

Maybe this sounds like you. Well, hear this: Your voice matters.

There are people who need to hear you. There are people who will be influenced by your ideas, people whose attitudes or behaviors will not change until they hear YOU.

I know it sounds crazy to think that there are people out there who are waiting just for what you have to say, but it's true. How do I know this? Because every single person who chooses to be heard and seen, believed and trusted, has influenced someone. Just look around you.

You've got the secret sauce, so what's it going to take to break down the barriers that you've created for yourself? Because you're the only one standing in the way of YOU.

Yep, sometimes you feel small, you feel powerless, and you feel disheartened.

Those aren't good enough reasons to keep your mouth shut.

Share your story. Write your manifesto. Submit that speaking proposal. Upload that article. Get your thoughts and opinions out there. Yes, on social media, too. Now is the time. Your audience is waiting.

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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

September 26, 2018

Some storytellers are just born that way



In 2016, Michelle Dobyne and her neighbors escaped from their burning apartment building. Michelle, who had been cooking breakfast at the time, gave an animated and upbeat interview with the local news, which immediately went viral.

You've probably seen it, but I was reminded of it recently, because my husband and I found ourselves saying "Not today," in Michelle's cadence, but not remembering exactly where we heard it.

Not only was Michelle's interview entertaining, it was memorable!

There's a lot of emphasis on storytelling in presentations these days. But now speakers think they need to overdramatize stories and stage them like performances, and this can get in the way—especially for a less-experienced speaker—of just connecting with the audience in an authentic way.

Michelle Dobyne is a natural storyteller. I'm pretty sure she didn't have time to write and rehearse this before the news media showed up. When asked if she was putting on a show for the cameras, her husband said, "This is what we do every day. Our household is a fun household."

Not all of us are natural storytellers. It's a skill to be learned and practiced. And even a natural storyteller like Michelle could improve her skills if she so desired.

But you can already learn a few things from Michelle. Her story is brief, just 31 seconds. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. It has characters, a plot, and a conflict to be resolved. She uses humor, vocal variety and facial expression to bring the story alive. It also has a happy ending, which stories don't necessarily need to have, unless you're a speaker who wants to end your audience's journey on a positive note.

News 6 in Tulsa caught up with Michelle two months after the video went viral to see how she was doing with her newfound fame. Her response pretty much sums up what we want to do as storytellers:

“I told the world what was going on and how it was going on,” she said.

See the original interview and read the story here.



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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

August 9, 2018

Your lizard brain doesn't want you to speak



My clients will frequently say to me, "I don't understand why I'm so nervous. There must be something wrong with me." Well, if it's wrong to be human, I guess we all have something wrong with us!

What we forget is that, while we are indeed human, we are also animals. Human animals, but still animals. And there is a very primitive part of our brain that still behaves as though we're living in a world populated by lions and other scary predators that are waiting to devour us if we remove ourselves from the safety of our herd. This part of the brain, the part that regulates our "fight or flight" response and other subconscious responses, is the limbic system—also called our "lizard brain," although it's not the same as what's called the "reptilian brain."

Humans have survived because we're social animals (or herd animals or pack animals, if you like)—we survive because we create cooperative and interdependent societies and groups. We need and depend on these groups, with their complex rules and systems, for our survival. And because we live and work in these groups, one of the worst things that can happen to a human (or other social animal) is to be kicked out of the group.

We need to belong to our group, so putting ourselves in front of the group, separating ourselves from the group, comes with great risk.

In a nutshell, when you put yourself out in front of an audience as a speaker, you become visible not only to the lions (according to your lizard brain), but also to those in your group who might shun you. Makes sense you would be scared if the result of your presentation might result in you being eaten or ostracized!

Of course, both of these outcomes are unlikely, but it doesn't stop our lizard brain from wanting to protect us. That primitive part of the brain is so tiny, yet has such a great impact in its ability to overrule our logical, and more recently evolved, neocortex.

So how do we manage this lizard brain?

First of all, let's just acknowledge it. There's nothing wrong with you if you're nervous about speaking in front of an audience. It's human nature to want to protect yourself, even though the process happens deep in your subconscious. Those of us who speak all the time and have been doing it for decades still get nervous! Yes, there's that lizard brain, but also, we just want to do a good job. We want our audiences to have a great experience and learn something. We do put human pressures on ourselves to succeed.

Second, there are many tools available that can help you work around that fight or flight response, the adrenaline that your body produces when your lizard brain feels threatened.

Some people prefer to dissipate the excess energy through jumping, stretching, "shaking like a dog" (that's a contribution from a client of mine who's a therapist), or moving their bodies in some way.

Others prefer to try calming strategies, such as breathing, listening to quiet music, meditating, or reading. By the way, if you ever watch athletes behind the scenes before a competition, you'll witness a variety of these strategies.

Third, understand that, with practice and experience, your nervousness will lessen over time. It very likely will not go away completely, and you will have some speaking engagements that dredge up more anxiety than others. The best way to manage your lizard brain is to speak frequently and get used to the sensations that adrenaline creates, and then work on managing your thoughts and your body so that you recover more quickly from your nerves.

And for fun, here's a short video that explains the lizard brain in an animated fashion.



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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

June 21, 2018

Is your life a constant audition?



“I was so happy with how Freaks and Geeks came out, that in my head I thought 'my career is basically over.' I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, and everything else is gravy.
And so nothing else matters. I can experiment. I can do anything. Because I did what I wanted to do, perfectly, once.”  ~ Judd Apatow

How many of us can say we've done something perfectly, once? Probably a lot of us! Even if it was something seemingly minor, like nailing that Julia Child recipe or running your best ever 5K. (Technically, I'm all about "ditching perfection," because trying to be perfect is usually a futile exercise. But sometimes we do achieve the goal we set out for ourselves, and sometimes it really does feel perfect!)

But oftentimes we don't acknowledge it or celebrate it. Instead, we keep trying to top it, to beat the record, to beat ourselves in our own internal competition—or sometimes external competition.

There's nothing wrong with building on our achievements, setting bigger or more daring goals, or seeking a level of success or mastery that feels way beyond our current abilities.

But what if we took the time and made the mental space for acknowledging our current or previous successes? What if we didn't feel constantly driven to achieve someone else's definition of "success?" What if we stopped comparing our wins to others' wins and minimizing ours because they don't "measure up?"

Judd Apatow could have been a "one-hit wonder" with Freaks and Geeks. Because of his success with the show, he no longer felt the need to impress people with his brilliance, but rather felt free to experiment and—implied in his quote—fail!

In a blog post a few years ago, I shared a quote from Barbara Walters, referencing the title of her autobiography, Audition:
"As a child, I felt that I didn't belong — I was auditioning. I kept going to different schools — I was auditioning. Most of my professional life, I've been auditioning. I think for a lot of us, life is an audition."
The thought that some people can never relax, can never enjoy their successes, and continue to audition every day of their lives makes me so sad.

Here's a thought: What if you've already got the part? What if you're already in the perfect role and you're already playing your part perfectly?

Could you give yourself a break? Could you enjoy the freedom of experimenting and even failing sometimes?

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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

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